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Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 19 June 2020

With the very fine weather and general inability to go very far, I have spent a fair bit of time sitting out in what might be called the school garden. By ‘garden’ I mean the area around the 1903 building that currently looks out over the old carpark, but which will – within months – be resurfaced to provide an attractive new playground with bi-fold doors into the sports hall. The areas planted around the front of the school have taken off in the sunshine, with plenty of attractive flowers and the promise of some apples and pears in the not-too-distant future. And I have been sitting on brand new handcrafted Adirondack chairs which have been the result of the talent and ingenuity of Mr Mulford and Mr Bustin. With a bit more time on our hands than we would usually have in Trinity, we have been working on ways to improve the ‘garden’ area ready for next year, and in the process we have been engaging with these areas of the school that we might normally hurry past between lessons or on the way to College or field.

When being told to be ‘mindful’, one of the techniques we are encouraged to follow is to engage with nature in this way: to slow down, to look carefully at plants and flowers, and to appreciate the pleasures of the natural world. It is in the very nature of being a city centre school that we don’t have rolling fields or glistening lakes; we have to make do with world-class architecture, colleges, museums, libraries, restaurants instead. But Oxford is an unusual city in how much nature we actually do have very close to us. The University Parks, South Parks, Port Meadow, Christ Church Meadow, our own playing fields – they are all close to the school and have been vital ‘lungs’ for us during lockdown, as places to exercise in relative safety. They have also boosted our mental health as we have been able to escape from our four walls and to see expanses of green, quite often in glorious sunshine.

I mentioned in a previous newsletter that relaxing our usual frenetic pace is perhaps one positive that we can take from an otherwise unpleasant situation. Busy schools full of busy people – sometimes wearing ‘busyness’ as a badge of honour – are not known for slowing down to smell the roses. But if we are going to get to the other end of this, who knows when, in a good state to face the challenges of the next stage, we really do need to think about ways to look after ourselves. So my message this week, if you haven’t already been doing so, is to spend as much time as you can outside – staying hydrated and sunscreened, of course – and to take time to look at the natural world around you. In ‘The Tables Turned’ the Romantic poet William Wordsworth implores us:

Up! Up! My friend and quit your books;

Or surely you’ll grow double:

Up! up! My friend, and clear your looks;

Why all this toil and trouble?

...

Books! ’Tis a dull and endless strife:

Come, hear the woodland linnet,

How sweet his music! On my life,

There’s more of wisdom in it.

And hark! How blithe the throstle sings!

He, too, is no mean preacher:

Come forth into the light of things,

Let Nature be your Teacher.

Now, I would be a rather negligent Headmaster if I were to tell you to throw away your books completely. There is, of course, a time and place for iPads, worksheets, textbooks, and all the other resources with which my colleagues are very nobly furnishing you. But there is also a valuable time and place for putting those to one side, to donning your favourite hat and venturing out into a sunshiny meadow. Just make sure you remain socially distanced while doing so while following government regulations. The words ‘socially distanced’ and ‘government regulations’ don’t feature much in Wordsworth’s poetry, thank goodness, but I suspect that even he would allow such an unpoetic finale in the current circumstances.

Have a great weekend.

Dr J

Knex carousel by Dan; Year 5 microbes models by Edward, Benji and Zachary; Year 7 & 8 Quiz; a chess match played across the Atlantic; Bronze award in the RSPB Wild Challenge; the Year 4 bird-feeders project

Congratulations to the following boys for their awards this week:

Year 3

Thomas B For writing an excellent poem about things they miss at school

Tristan For writing an excellent poem about things they miss at school

Hugo For outstanding progress with his times tables and corresponding division facts

Alexander For writing an excellent poem about things they miss at school

Laurence For fabulous times tables challenges

Max For writing an excellent poem about things they miss at school

Alex For a fantastic division challenge showing great progress

Michael For outstanding determination to learn his times tables

Nathanael For writing an excellent poem about things they miss at school

Ethan For writing an excellent poem about things they miss at school

Monty Headmaster's Commendation

Thomas B Headmaster's Commendation

Year 4

George C For a superb persuasive letter to the Prime Minister about deforestation

George W For a powerful letter to President Trump about deforestation and climate change

Year 5

Max For his work on Edward Jenner

Dan For an outstanding class performance project

Dan For his work on Edward Jenner

Tolly For independent outstanding comprehension work

Max For excellent work on the 5Ks in RSP

Finn For excellent work on Anne Frank

Edward For excellent RSP

Edward For a perfect translation of Poppaea in Classics

Edward For outstanding work on factors, multiples, primes and prime factorisation

Edward For his model microbe

Jack For an excellent and detailed short story plan

George For very thoughtful work on Anne Frank

Zachary For his model microbe

Zachary For his outstanding miniature book

Benji For fulfilling the requirements for Grade 2 Piano

Benji For his model microbe

Year 6

James For his work on coral reef conservation

Year 7

Lucas Platinum Certificate: Commendation for achieving 400 House Points

Edmund For excellent effort and progress in piano studies

Enoch For a detailed and empathy-filled presentation on the theme of 'money as the root of all evil' in RSP

Year 8/8S

Fraser For impressive research on Shintoism in RSP

Felix For impressive research on the religion of the Rapa Nui in RSP

Julien For impressive commitment to Classics and a splendid essay on the Odyssey

Barnaby For impressive research on Scientology and its controversies in RSP

Artworks of the Week: Alexander R; Eddie; Ishan; Thomas B; James A; Peter; George C; Herbie

You will have seen my letter, sent by Parentmail on 17 June, regarding the steps we are now able to take to get more boys back on site safely before the end of term. We can’t wait to see the boys again and we only wish we could have more on site for longer. Government regulations currently prevent this, but any social contact and socialisation for the boys – safely distanced – will be a real boon over the final couple of weeks of term.

Consistent with this week’s nature theme Dr Gallagher is running a poetry competition. The topic is ‘the wonder of nature’: “Plants, trees, birds, flowers, the seasons, insects, farms, fields, woodland, leaves - there are so many things to inspire you to put pen to paper and display your poetic talents. I will choose two winning poems that best capture a sense of wonder. One winner will receive a copy of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane, and the other will receive a copy of I am the Seed that Grew the Tree: A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year. Please send the poems to lucy.gallagher@newcollegeschool.org. The deadline for submissions is next Friday – 26 June – and the winners will be announced in the last week of Trinity.

Despite my sunny optimism above, we are clearly witnessing rather changeable weather. So in addition to the usual (applied) sunscreen, hats and water bottles, it would also be a good idea for the boys to bring in light rainproof coats. Welcome to the British ‘summer’.

We have really enjoyed the family quizzes over the past few weeks, and catching up with many boys and parents (and indeed siblings) we haven’t been able to see in person over the past weeks. Congratulations to the winners of this week’s quizzes – the Tates in Years 5-6 and Vines in Years 7-8 – who just pipped the others to the top spot.

Families on the look-out for even more online learning activities might enjoy the resources available on the Westminster Abbey website: https://www.westminster-abbey.org/learning/a-to-z-activities

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